Thoughts on Obsolesce and Technology Writing: Staying relevant in a fast moving system of development and restructuring.
There are two kinds of books. Ones that sparkle and fade, and others that stay relevant for decades; even centuries. Structuring a book with the intent of it staying relevant for longer than a few years is an important and debasing first step to writing a piece of content worth writing and reading.
There are major concerns with writing a book or textbook that is "cutting edge" and thus useless in six months, or worse, by the time it is published, or having it age like a user's manual for Windows 3.1 or worse, some forgotten obscure system that never gained traction in the minds of anyone.
There is also the importance, in academia, of writing a piece of material that will push a field of study forward.
Qualitative Research Methods, as Sally and I both discussed, is a book that not only defined a current field, but became one of the central resources for that field. Not only that, but the time in which the book was published is of minimal concern. It is as relevant today as it was at the time in which it was published.
Why is this the case? My hypothesis is that there is a way to write a book that engages global variables and formulas that describe systems vs. the systems themselves. Instead of writing about Facebook, one can talk about attention gravity and cite Facebook as an example. By abstracting concepts and giving them new terms, one can provide readers with a framework of assessing new territories and concepts that cannot be predicted or covered. This saves a lot of work in updating a book. For instance, Dale Carnegie outlined the basic interactions and needs of humans and released 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'. Some of the examples have aged, but they are still relevant because they concern memorable and famous people. The book is still as useful today as it was in the past.
A the very least, let this be a book one can look back on in the future as a snapshot of the age - a document of transition from one time to the next. Invariably, this book will be outdated the moment it is published, but some articles may set a framework for understanding the future.
Thoughts on Textbooks
Textbooks are an ironically different story. One might say that they 'want' to be outdated, so that students are forced to purchase the next volume or update. Often, only a few chapters have changed, and a new cover or forward has been attached. Some of the chapters get moved around, so that the pagination is slightly off, inconveniencing those with older editions of the book. Books on cyber law are no longer books, but binders that contain chapters that get added to and subtracted from every few months.
This is an option, if one wants to go the route of annoying people for a profit. But it also prevents a book from going down in history as a classic reference resource. It also provides much more work on behalf of the author. If one writes many books like this, responsibility increases exponentially with each new book. This makes a book much like a blog, and the research requirements for each new book also compound, as the author becomes streched out over time. This decreases ability to concentrate and focus on new work, but could be useful for authors who learn well by researching.
Applying traditional methods to any system
Writing a book on process.
Finding the things that don't change in any system and writing about those.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and help is needed.